David Crosby: Remember My Name

Before I went to the movie theater to see The Joker, I was supposed to see another movie…but never did. And so, for Christmas this year, the local library gifted me with the news that a copy of David Crosby: Remember My Name was ready for pickup! (Thank you Ben Franklin for your genius idea of public libraries.) 

David Crosby is a fascinating and engaging character, with a life and career to match, thus making him the perfect subject for a documentary that is humorous, heartbreaking, and honest. 

The film opens with Crosby’s lively re-telling of seeing John Coltrane perform with the most intensity in a puke-green-tiled bathroom in Chicago. Music is Crosby’s lifeblood: when Crowe poses the choice of having no music in his life for extreme joy in his home and personal life, Crosby does not hesitate to choose a life filled with music. Music, he feels, is the only thing he has to offer. And while his choice may seem selfish, the camera shows how torn Crosby truly is in the next shot: leaving his beautiful home and family, whom he truly loves, for a six-week tour, from which he may not return because of his health issues. “I hate leaving,” Crosby declares.  

Crosby lists his single regret as the time he has wasted “being smashed” and wants more time. Time, he declares, is the final currency, and how does one spend it? The film both explores how Crosby has spent his time and chooses to spend whatever remaining time he has left. 

Crosby’s childhood was marked by what he describes as a dysfunctional family — a loving mother, a “crusty”, unaffectionate father (award-winning cinematographer Floyd Crosby, who won a Golden Globe for his work on High Noon) who never once told his son that he loved him, and an older brother, Ethan, also a musician who introduced Crosby to ‘50s jazz, sending him “right down the rabbit hole.” (Ethan committed suicide in the late 1990s. His death is not discussed.) Crosby was a disciplinary problem and was kicked out of every school he ever attended (a foreshadowing of his membership in musical groups); in his words, he was a chubby, lonely kid who desperately wanted attention.  

With the massive success of The Byrds in the mid-1960s, Crosby finally gained the attention he had always coveted. Yet, Crosby admits, that success coming at such a young age impaired him from realizing how truly lucky he was. Cut to Crosby observing The Beatles answer banal questions in a 1966 press conference. “Who is the young man with the lengthy haircut to your right rear?” a reporter asks, and Crosby immediately hides. “That’s Dave, isn’t it? Dave Crosby, a mate of ours,” John Lennon replies. “Ahoy matey!” Crosby recalls hanging out with and learning from the Beatles—learning how to be a rock star because “they knew how.” The pure joy and admiration in his eyes as he watches them is clear. 

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No Russian hats and mustaches yet: Crosby in his famous wide-brimmed hat as a member of The Byrds. Photo by Henry Diltz. 

Crosby describes his young self as “young, cocky, arrogant…and a total caboose to my dick.” (Quotes like these — uttered so nonchalantly and honestly — are part of what make this film — and Crosby — so entertaining.) Driving along Sunset Boulevard, Crosby and co. pass the Whisky a Go Go, where Crosby recalls the origin of his dislike of The Doors and Jim Morrison. Morrison approached Crosby and pulled down his shades, telling him, “You can’t hide.” Crosby, irritated, was high on LSD and naturally “teleported to the other side of the room” and never forgave Morrison for his brash comment. 

After being fired by The Byrds (the scene is creatively re-told in animation form), Crosby retreated to his other love, sailing. He bought a schooner for $25,000 — loaned to him by Peter Tork — and disappeared into the sea. Sailing, for Crosby, is transformative and restorative. While his senses are bombarded by the filtering of information on land, Crosby claims that every sensation is louder, clearer, and brighter while sailing, not to mention more beautiful and magical. “The ocean is totally real,” Crosby observes. “Opposite of Hollywood.” 

The film crew then travels up to Laurel Canyon. Crosby recalls being the first musician to move there, promptly followed by other musicians and thus transforming it into the place for musicians to gather and exchange ideas. They go into the Canyon Country Store, where Crowe asks Crosby what he wishes people really knew and understood about this place. 

“It’s not like we hung out here,” Crosby replies. “We just got groceries here. Where do you get coffee here?” he then asks — like any other ding dong tourist lost in a grocery store. Uhhh, Croz, I don’t think he was talking specifically about the store. 

“Morrison, what a dork,” he says, pointing at the pictures of The Doors (who, to his knowledge, never lived in the Canyon) decorating the walls of the small store. 

The film is littered with moments like these — Crosby visiting sites important to his story: the house where he was fired from the Byrds, the Canyon Country Store, and the house that inspired “Our House,” in the kitchen of which Crosby, Stills, and Nash was born in a matter of minutes. 

Later, Crosby visits Kent State University, reflecting on the May 4 shootings. Crosby’s anguishing cries in the song’s fading moments — “Why? How many more?” etc — add emotional weight to the powerful protest song (one of the handful songs written by Neil Young that I can admit to really liking). His anger at the Sergeant who swore to have never fired his weapon is palpable. The song—and what it represented—made Crosby proud that he was finally able to stand up for what he believed in. (Crosby’s firing from the Byrds stemmed from, in part, Crosby’s political comments at the Monterey Pop Festival about President Kennedy’s assassination. His bandmates did not feel that it was appropriate for “pop stars” to voice political opinions.) 

Graham Nash has said that David Crosby went to identify the body of his girlfriend Christine Hinton, who died in a car accident, and returned “never the same.” For Crosby, Christine’s death was debilitating. Her death left an emptiness, a huge hole that he wanted to fill, yet he had no tools to deal with his grief except for drugs and alcohol, an addiction that marred Crosby’s life and career for years. 

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Oops — it’s Nash, Stills, and Crosby posing for their eponymous debut album in 1969. Photograph by Henry Diltz. When the band returned a few days later to correct their error, the house had been torn down — a fitting metaphor for the band itself. 

When Crosby, Stills, and Nash were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, Crosby’s speech was both heartfelt and simple. He thanked his wife and the two men standing next to him for being “his brothers”, continually offering love and support and enabling him to create the music that he had. (I think Stills was ready to cry at that point.)

“I can’t tell you how great it was to be in that band,” Crosby declares, while also stating that CSNY is a completely separate band that should be inducted into the rock and roll hall of fame on their own, even if “just to make Clapton jealous.” And he is right — CSNY is a completely different band. I think Graham Nash put it best in his autobiography when he said that he, David Crosby, and Stephen Stills watched The Beatles in A Hard Day’s Night and decided, “I want to do that.” That being in a cooperative and charismatic band. Neil Young, on the other hand, watched Bob Dylan be a total, selfish jerk in Don’t Look Back and decided that’s what he wanted to do. He waltzed into CSN’s world when it suited him and then called on “artistic freedom” when he wanted out, with no thought or consideration to how that might affect anyone else. It’s like he’s still sulking about being told his voice wasn’t commercial during the recording of the first Buffalo Springfield album and having his songs sung by other band members. Oy, shocker, Einstein. I digress.

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One of these is not like the others… 

 

The film shows some home footage of the trio lounging in a backyard somewhere, discussing rehearsals for a tour or an album, I’m not sure. Crosby is relaxing in a hammock when Stephen Stills (bad teeth and all) gets THIS CLOSE to his face and says, “I’m not gonna cop out an inch to fear and he walked out two days in a row you f—ing hypocrite, YOU PISS ME OFF.” Then he storms off. I don’t know what that was all about (Neil Young?????), and I don’t think it was supposed to be funny, but I was laughing out loud–and so was Crosby, ca. 1969. (Maybe not the best idea seeing as Stills was ready to take out some hippies at the Big Sur festival for making fun of his fur coat or something.)

And while these men were once so close, Crosby states that forty years later it changed from a band of brothers with similar creative visions and goals to “just turn on the smoke machine and play the hits” because they could barely stand one another. Crosby’s statements about Neil Young’s girlfriend (gag me) Daryl Hannah (seriously?????) became public (he thought they were “off-the-record” — no excuse —  if that’s what you really think, just say it) and seared a rift in the band. The band’s final performance was a dismal rendition of “Silent Night” at the National Christmas Tree Lighting at the White House in 2014.

Crosby admits that his biggest mistake is getting angry. The adrenaline hits his system and bam, instant asshole (hey, his words) — just add water and stir. Yet, there is no real discussion — aside from the passing mention of the fall-out over his comments about Daryl Hannah (for which he belatedly apologized) — of what has inspired such volatile comments about Crosby from his once best friend Graham Nash. (I gather it may be for Crosby’s attitude toward Nash, who like Young, left his wife of decades for a younger woman. Crosby meanwhile has remained faithful to his wife of some thirty-odd years now. I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.) The apparently irreparable break is disheartening.

Crowe reminds Crosby of what he said when they first met in 1974: “My father is 74, he says in the long run the only thing that counts is whether you got any f—ing friends. All the rest is bulls–t. He’s had 74 years to look. I’m inclined to agree with him.”

Crosby admits that he probably made that up–because his father never had any friends.

“What happened to your friends?” Crowe asks.

“That’s really hard,” Crosby answers. “I still have friends. But the main guys I made music with really dislike me.”

Why don’t you make the situation with Neil right and show up on his doorstep? Crowe presses.

“I don’t even know where his doorstep is,” is Crosby’s simple reply.

Yet — back to where the film started — Crosby has chosen to spend his time now making music, even if without these once important men in his life.

The DVD has deleted scenes and extended interviews, some of which I wish had been included in the final film. Chris Hillman tells of what a truly kind friend David Crosby is; Hillman, the scrawny, young kid in The Byrds always felt as if Crosby watched over and looked out for him. McGuinn recalls the joy of meeting Crosby for the first time. Crosby discusses connecting with his first-born son, who was adopted as a baby and now plays with Crosby in his band. Crosby’s wife remembers the agony over Crosby’s liver transplant. Crosby gets on his iMac to tweet in the middle of the night. The man has had such a full and interesting life the film could have gone on for a few hours more and no one would be bored. Remember My Name is an unvarnished and human portrait of one of music’s greatest figures and stories.

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An impromptu, iconic photo by Henry Diltz (who makes a great appearance in the film). 

And that’s it for 2019, folks. More next year…maybe.

10 Albums

As a quick footnote to my last post, I have recently been pondering at what point I should become concerned and/or seek medical attention (NOT from Dr. Julia Hoffman, of course) when I find myself resonating with sentiments expressed by David Collins? (He only tried to kill his father…twice? Has been possessed a handful of times, made friends with ghosts, been accused of being an insane liar…totally respectable!)

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(That point has passed. You went past go, Brittany, but you did not collect $200. )

Moving on…

I was recently “tagged” on social media to post about ten albums that have had an impact on me. This task was particular difficult for me because it’s easier for me to think of individual bands and musicians who had an impact on me, as I have this obsessive personality that requires me to listen to everything they ever recorded and consequently makes it hard to narrow down which album has had the most impact. But hey, let’s give it a whirl…

10. Graham Nash, Songs for Beginners (1971) 

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I am a simple man
And I play a simple tune
Wish that I could see you once again
Across the room
Like the first time

I’ve said it before, and I guess I’ll say it again: Graham Nash is undoubtedly my favorite member of CSN. Compare Nash’s first solo effort to those of the other members (which aren’t too shabby, don’t get me wrong–I love CSN), and you’ll hear why. The album is full of raw, emotional songs about Nash’s breakup with Joni Mitchell and fervent cries for political activism, but each song is so carefully crafted to pop/singer-songwriter perfection. I listened to this album a lot as a teenager–no regrets.

9. Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here (1975)

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Remember when you were young? 
You shone like the sun
Shine on you crazy diamond 
Now there’s a look in your eyes
Like black holes in the sky 
Shine on you crazy diamond 

As a teenager, I had a vague notion of Pink Floyd but didn’t really become interested (translation: obsessed! I can’t have interests like normal people, remember?) in the band until I discovered Syd Barrett and his music. “I’ve got a bike/You can ride it if you like/It’s got a basket, a bell that rings and/Things to make it look good/I’d give it to you if I could, but I borrowed it.” Ughh, love that stuff. Everything about that era of the band is so unique–the sounds, the lyrics, even the delivery of the lyrics…nothing like it in the world, methinks. Ice creeeeeam, tastes good in the afternoon! Ice creeeeeam, tastes good if you eat it soon!

But the fact of the matter is that the band endured and made more music without Syd Barrett than they did with him. The band could not have happened without Syd Barrett, but it also could not have lasted with him at the helm. Still, the band found ways to acknowledge his importance and pay tribute to him in some of their most famous works, Wish You Were Here included. (Even though Roger Waters has stated, in his usual stubborn way, that only one song off the album is really about Syd, but I find his influence permeates so much of the album, albeit if not always so forthrightly as “Shine on You Crazy Diamond.”) During the recording of the album, a shaven, overweight Syd Barrett visited the studio, shocking his former bandmates and reducing them to tears. The emotional weight this album carries is palpable in its lyrics and music.

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How I wish, how I wish you were here
We’re just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl
Year after year
Running over the same old ground
And how we found
The same old fears
Wish you were here

When I bought the album on CD (that used to be a thing, you know), I specifically ordered a version that also included the early Pink Floyd singles–“Arnold Layne,” “See Emily Play,” “Candy and a Currant Bun,” “Apples and Oranges”–as bonus tracks, making it the perfect CD for me, as it melded my favorite non-Syd Barrett Floyd album with some of my most favorite Syd Barrett songs.

8. Pulp, Different Class (1995) 

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You will never understand
How it feels to live your life
With no meaning or control
And with nowhere left to go.

(Now I’m wondering why I didn’t re-create this album cover at my wedding? Uhh, because those are some ugly flowers, that’s why, the second voice in my head says.)

Oh, Jarvis.

What can I say? I spent a good portion of my life obsessed with and worshipping that guy. And for good reason.

Pulp spent a long time (what, fifteen years or something) in the music business without much to show for it. (And that would be because some of the early Pulp music is really, really not very good. Just trust me on this one.) With Different Class, Pulp’s recognition and success reached a whole new level. They had top ten hits, nationwide fame, and Jarvis Cocker–the guy who once fell out of a window trying to impress a girl with his Spider-man impression and spent months in a wheelchair as a consequence–was suddenly a sex symbol at 32.

Different Class is full of some of his best songwriting, dealing with themes of sex (Jarv’s fave), the class system, drugs…yet all set to a flagrantly POP beat. There’s the scathing, vengeful “I Spy” (in which Jarvis advises that you should take him “seriously, very seriously indeed ‘cos I’ve been sleeping with your wife for the past sixteen weeks”), anthemic call to arms for all the mis-shapes, mistakes, misfits, the depressing come-down at “Bar Italia” “where other broken people go”, the infectious sing-a-long “Disco 2000” about the one that got away, and the ultimate ATTACK on the clash of the social classes “Common People” (really a shame how the video/single omits the final, most biting verse). And then there’s “F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E.”, “Live Bed Show,” “Underwear,” “Monday Morning,” “Pencil Skirt”….

It’s impossible to choose a best or even favorite track. This is the album that catapulted a mild interest in Jarvis Cocker to a full-blown obsession, kicking the door open for all the rest of “Britpop.” It would be years before any other musical genres would be allowed to enter the fortress.

7. Frank Sinatra, A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra (1957) 

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I love those J-I-N-G-L-E bells, oh 
Those holiday J-I-N-G-L-E bells, oh 
Those happy J-I-N-G-L-E B-E-DOUBLE L-S 
I love those J-I-N-G-L-E bells, oh 

If you’re surprised that there’s a Christmas album on this list, then you CLEARLY haven’t listened to this Christmas album. I listen to this album year-round. A song from this album made its way to my wedding reception playlist. It’s Sinatra. It’s perfect.

I first got into Sinatra after being assigned to read Gay Talese’s magnificent profile of Sinatra, “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” during my next-to-final quarter of college (the first time around), and I thought, “Wow, he has to be the coolest guy, ever.” And guess what? He is. I just don’t wanna live in a world where there is no Frank Sinatra. In the words of Dean Martin, “This is Frank’s world, and we’re just living it.” Amen, brother.

6. The Smiths, Hatful of Hollow (1984) 

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I am the son, and the heir, of a shyness that is criminally vulgar
I am the son and heir, of nothing in particular

It was difficult to choose one Smiths album; truthfully, any of their albums could be inserted here. But I may or may not still be wearing an oversized, pit-stained Smiths t-shirt, an heirloom passed down from an older sister, with this album cover on it, so I’d say its impact is pretty obvious.

Morrissey has a lyric for every situation in my life:

Struggling with the state of yourself and your life? “Every day you must say, how do I feel about my shoes?”

Feel like your work is not meaningful or productive? “But sometimes I feel more fulfilled making Christmas cards with the mentally ill.” 

When someone finally asks your honest opinion of them? “Frankly, Mr. Shankly, since you ask: you are a flatulent pain in the arse!”

Have to deal with the consequences of telling someone your honest opinion of them? “Sweetness, sweetness, I was only joking when I said I’d like to smash every tooth in your head.”

Feeling under the weather and someone asks you how you’re feeling? “Oh mother, I can feel the soil falling over my head.”

Just something I may or may not say every day: “Oh, I’m too tired/I’m so sick and tired/And I’m feeling very sick and ill today.” (I am a “delicate flower”!!!!)

Someone says “I love you”? “So…scratch my name on your arm with a fountain pen. This means you really love me.”

Moving onto a new obsession and your previous obsession starts to feel left out? “I still love you, oh, I still love you/Only slightly, only slightly less than I used to, my love.”

PMSing and carrying around some extra “water” weight? “You’re the one for me, fatty/ You’re the one I really, really love/And I will stay/Promise you’ll say/If I’m ever in your way/A-hey!”

And ad infinitum.

I mean, these lyrics just roll off the tongue. So good.

(I recently saw a headline about a study that concluded that “Smiths fans were neurotic.” Was such a study necessary? I mean, really????????)

If you want to have a fun game of charades sometime, try using Morrissey lyrics. “Punctured bicycle, on a hillside, desolate.” Ahhh, fun times.

5. Oasis, Definitely Maybe (1994) 

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You’re the outcast, you’re the underclass
But you don’t care, because you’re living fast
You’re the uninvited guest who stays ’till the end
I know you’ve got a problem that the devil sends
You think they’re talking ’bout you but you don’t know who
I’ll be scraping your life from the sole of my shoe tonight

As a young child, my brother and I would go upstairs to my older sister’s lair and deface the posters of her musical heroes with sticky-tack: Morrissey’s nipple magically grew one very long hair and the Gallagher brothers’ noses always had dangling boogers. I had a strong aversion to the Gallaghers in particular because I knew one of them (who also thought he was John Lennon) had called George Harrison a “nipple” (“NIP-PLE”) and I got tricked into watching one of their concerts instead of getting to watch A Hard Day’s Night for the nth time because I was told John Lennon was in it. (He was–in photographic form at the conclusion of “Live Forever.”) So it was a long time before I sold my soul to this rock ‘n’ roll band.

But oh boy, when I did, there weren’t no turnin’ back. Noel Gallagher’s latest solo effort asks, “Who built the moon?” Uhhhh, you? Would follow that dude to the moon and back, no questions asked.

What a debut album–it kicks in with “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” and never, ever lets up. Soul sold.

4. Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home (1965) 

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Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky
With one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea
Circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate
Driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow

I cycled through many musical obsessions as a teenager, but I think perhaps my obsession with Bob Dylan lasted the longest and had the greatest impact, which is odd considering I probably listen him to the least out of any artist that appears on this list. I devoured all his albums, watched Dont Look Back more than was healthy, and wore sunglasses a lot. Yeah, not healthy behavior, but having a thorough knowledge of Dylan’s catalogue is something I consider worthy of being mentioned on my resume. Once, I had to explain to a dense individual how important Bob Dylan was to music. Like, they legitimately didn’t get it. It was sad. Don’t be that person.

Bringing It All Back Home is my favorite Dylan album, as it blends both acoustic and electric Dylan and contains some of my favorite Dylan tracks (which I did NOT play at my wedding reception!)–and Rick Nelson’s, too. I know, I have great taste.

3. The Jam, The Gift (1982) 

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Why are you frightened can’t you see that it’s you
That ain’t no ghost it’s a reflection of you
Why do you turn away an’ keep it out of sight
Oh don’t live up to your given roles
There’s more inside you that you won’t show

Paul Weller is the man who knocked down the walls built by Jarvis Cocker.

My first exposure to The Jam was the video for “Going Underground.” I thought, “Good song, lead singer is a bit odd-looking.”

Ha. Ha. Ha.

I feel like with each of my obsessions, it just got worse. Like, I spent A LOT of time obsessing about Paul Weller. Way more time than I spent obsessing about Jarvis Cocker, even. The only reason I don’t spend so much time doing it anymore is because…well, I found more fulfillment in my work and life, I guess. And I also sought medical attention. Only kidding, ha. Maybe I should have.

Anyway.

The Gift may not be my favorite Jam album (but it includes my favorite Jam song, bar none), yet it is their most musically diverse and adventurous. And it has so, so, so many good songs.

And it’s their last. Weller, at age 24, announced the dissolution of the band at the height of their fame. Guts, man.

Bring on The Style Council!

(Never forget the time I threatened to turn this blog into an analysis/discussion of Style Council videos.)

2. The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds (1966) 

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Sometimes I feel very sad
Sometimes I feel very sad
(Can’t find nothin’ I can put my heart and soul into)

I don’t even know what to say about this album. I love it so much. It is absolute perfection from start to finish. It’s a spiritual kind of thing, don’t you think? Yes, yes, it is. Yet there are still people who don’t “get” this album. Don’t be that person. Make the world a better place. Listen to Pet Sounds, preferably at least once a day. You just have to listen…listen.

1. The Beatles, Rubber Soul (1965) 

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Was she told when she was young
That pain would lead to pleasure?
Did she understand it when they said
That a man must break his back
To earn his day of leisure?
Will she still believe it when he’s dead?

Any Beatles album could hold the top spot on this list. As many musical obsessions have come and gone, The Beatles were the first and remain the most intense and innate part of my existence. The Beatles are the sound of my beating heart.

It’s odd (to me, anyway) to think of how this is the album that so influenced Brian Wilson to write Pet Sounds, yet he and I listened primarily to different versions. Brian was listening to the Capitol version, with a different track listing (including the false-start version of “I’m Looking Through You”), and I have always listened to the original UK version. (Capitol may have been onto something, actually: omitting “What Goes On” is downright inspired and inserting the folksy “I’ve Just Seen A Face” and “It’s Only Love” blend in well with the musical landscape of the album.) Yet we both have the same intense love affair with the album. Revolver may have opened the doors for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Sgt. Pepper is certainly more advanced technology-wise, but neither has the heart of Rubber Soul. In fact, as much as I love each of their albums, I might go as far to argue that no other Beatles album has the heart that Rubber Soul does. The empathetic drumming Ringo lends to John in “In My Life”? Just…my heart.

I’ll stop now. I find it hard to express my feelings about this band of brothers for, like Cordelia, my love’s more richer than my tongue…

I know everyone stays up REALLY late at Collinwood, but it’s way past my bedtime…

P.S.

Because no one has found out that he’s a vampire from another century.

Can’t stop, won’t stop. HELP!